Friday, February 24, 2012

Productivity, and Other Lies Parents Tell

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the ugliest, most uncomfortable plastic chair you could think of. There are children screaming at dog whistle levels. Most of them are mine. My fingers are so purple, they match my favorite shirt perfectly. There are other things I could be doing right now to kill time until the awesomeness of Girl Scout cookies show up. (Love you Jo Jo. Seriously.) 

But the kids are having the time of their lives. So we’ll stay. For at least a little while longer.

 Revolving doors will keep them busy for hours. Trust me on this one.

The Hardest Part of Having Kids Was Learning How Not to Fail at Productivity

Last week I said I was going to set responsibility aside for a while and just be a mom. I think I’ve done pretty well at that this week. Helped along by the fact that my work load’s waaaaaaaaaaay down right now, my kids were on vacation, and we didn’t really have anything else we HAD to do. But as much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, there’s no getting around the fact that I still have to buy groceries. I still have to get the kids to dance and swim and tae kwon do. There are going to be days like today where it’s just an endless stream of errands from one end to the other.

Maybe I’ve romanticized it a little in my mind, but running errands feels like it was a lot easier when all I had to do was move the kids from carseat to shopping cart to car seat to stroller and back again. They weren’t running in three directions at once. They weren’t squabbling and fighting and forgetting to look with their eyes instead of their hands. They certainly weren’t boinging off the ceiling.

These days, my kids manage to do all of that. In a single trip. The fact that I still have hair is a miracle. The fact that I haven't just started keeping duct tape and handcuffs in the car is an ever bigger one. Fortunately, there are saner (and slightly less creepy) ways we get through our day. 

The most important of which is to plan lots and lots of time for time outs.

Sticking Your Kids on Time Out in the Car is a GOOD Idea??

Nope. Not if I want to have a car left, at any rate. No, I'm talking about something much more simple. Time out during the day. Time to stretch and play. Breaks between running errands to let them be kids instead of the mini-adults I expect them to be when they’re standing in line. 

At a birthday party a few years back, a friend asked if I took my kids to Chuck E. Cheese after running errands as a reward for being good. He looked slightly scandalized when I admitted that nope, we usually hit the House of Mouse first and bumped everything else back until after.

Yes, it’s kind of like eating your dessert first. You get the reward, then you have to slog through the healthy stuff you don’t really want (that you usually just suffer through to get to dessert). No, it probably doesn’t do a lot to teach self-control and delayed gratification.


It might just be my kids, but I know after an hour long car ride, the mini-occupants of my back seat are ready to explode. They’re not going to walk quietly through the store. They’re not going to sit peacefully at the restaurant. Heck, I’m lucky if they don’t go running out into traffic!

I suppose I could spend the entire trip trying to get them to stay calm by promising them a treat later, but honestly? It’s a lot easier to take 30-40 minutes, go to Chuck E. Cheese (or the park, or the McDonald’s playplace, or whatever) and let them burn out that overflow of energy first. Then they’re a little calmer, and I’ve got a fighting chance at getting through the day with my sanity intact!

What are Your Super Secret Secrets?

Everyone has little tips and tricks that help them get through days of productivity relatively unscathed. This is mine-take lots and lots of breaks to let your kids be kids. What are your super secret secrets of productivity after you’ve added kidlets to your day?  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Responsibility Killed the Parenting Star

I can’t say I go out of my way to keep my personal views out of this blog. It’s just not nice to lie like that. But I have noticed in the past few months that I’ve been leaning more heavily toward facts than personal experiences. That’s  not what I started this blog for, and it took me a little while to put my finger on what the heck was going on. 

Quite simply, I’m figuring out that I’m way overdue to figure out how to be a parent.

When my kids were younger, being a parent was actually pretty easy. Feed them, change them. Teach them to use a fork and a spoon and walk them through their ABC’s. Take them to the playground, and remember to take time to go jump in a mud puddle every now and then.


Then School and Expectations Rear Their Ugly Heads

Mr. A will be 11 in April. Princess C is turning 9 in less than two months, and G-money is exploring the wide, wonderful world of being 6. And I’m realizing that somewhere along the way, I stumbled. I tripped. I was so busy trying to be a good parent to three school-age kids that I forgot what it meant to be a parent.

Homework gets done. My first grader read his first chapter book the other day, and he’s starting in on his second. My fifth grader just tested at the 11th grade reading level.

11th grade, people. We took a time-out to celebrate that night.

The kids are in dance and tae kwon do. They take swim lessons and have their friends over on the weekends. I’m conscious of how much junk food they eat, how much time they spend playing video games and how much smack I let them talk before I remind them that if it’s not nice, and it’s not necessary, it really doesn’t need to come out of their mouths.

But I can’t remember the last time we went outside to dance in the rain. Or busted out the fingerpaints. Or built a tower out of cards on the kitchen table.

It’s not that we’re too busy, although it feels that way sometimes. Sure, our nights are full, but there’s always time for one more story. One more laugh. One more hug. It’s just that somewhere along the way, I got busy being responsible. 

Ugh. That word sends a shiver down my spine.

It’s true though. When I have free time at night, it usually ends up being laundry time or dishes time or pick-up-themess-in-my-living-room-that-never-stops-breeding time. Bed time is bed time. Dinner time is dinner time. Somewhere along the way, I got so busy “doing” that I forgot living isn’t about how clean your dishes are. And no matter what my neighbors think, it’s not about the last time I mowed my grass either.

It’s about the number of hugs in a day. It’s staying up late to watch a movie with your kids. It’s letting homework wait an extra half hour so you can go to the park. Eating cereal for dinner so you have time for that second game of UNO. And a third.

At the dinner table last night, we were talking about where the kids wanted to live when they grew up. And G-money crawled right up in my lap and cried because he didn’t want to stop living with me.

It was a kick in the pants, because that stage isn’t going to last forever. By the time he’s 18, he’s going to be foaming at the mouth to live someplace where mom and dad aren’t. And right now, I’m wasting these sweet, precious years worrying about how clean my house is or whether or not the kids have clean pants to wear.

My Promise to My Kids

So today, I’m doing something bold. Something daring. I’m giving up on being a responsible parent and focusing on being the parent that my kids need me to be. If that means washing a load of laundry at 6 in the morning so the kids have clean clothes, or doing dishes before dinner just to have a plate to eat on, or stepping on toys because it doesn’t happen to be Sunday, then that’s what it means. I don’t want to look back on these years and realize I’ve been so worried about being a responsible parent I forgot to take the time to be a good one.

I’m also requiring 48 hours notice if you want my house to be clean when you come to visit. Otherwise, you take what you get. Consider yourself warned.